Troubleshooting MySQL Error 1167 (ER_WRONG_KEY_COLUMN): Effective Strategies for Resolution

When working with MySQL, you may encounter Error 1167 with SQLSTATE 42000, which reads “The used storage engine can’t index column ‘%s’.” This error suggests that there’s an issue with the way a column is being used in an index, typically due to an incompatibility with the storage engine’s requirements for indexing columns. Let’s explore how to diagnose and fix this error through various examples and sample code.

Understanding the Error

Error 1167 occurs when you try to create an index on a column that the storage engine cannot support. This can be due to several reasons, such as:

  • The column data type is not indexable by the storage engine.
  • The column is part of a FULLTEXT index, but the storage engine does not support FULLTEXT indexing.
  • The column is a BLOB/TEXT data type without a specified length for the index prefix.

Diagnosing the Issue

  1. Examine Column Data Types: Check the data types of the columns you’re trying to index. Ensure they are compatible with the storage engine and can be indexed.
  2. Review Storage Engine Capabilities: Different storage engines have different capabilities. For example, the MyISAM engine supports FULLTEXT indexes, but InnoDB only added support for FULLTEXT indexes in MySQL 5.6 and later.
  3. Check Index Prefix Length: If you’re indexing a BLOB or TEXT type column, you need to specify a prefix length for the index.

Fixing the Error

Example 1: Changing the Data Type

If the column data type is not supported for indexing by the storage engine, you may need to change the data type. For example:

ALTER TABLE my_table MODIFY my_column VARCHAR(255);
CREATE INDEX idx_my_column ON my_table(my_column);

In this example, we change a TEXT column to a VARCHAR before indexing, assuming the content fits within the VARCHAR length limitation.

Example 2: Specifying Index Prefix Length

When indexing a BLOB or TEXT column, specify a prefix length:

ALTER TABLE my_table ADD INDEX idx_my_column (my_column(10));

This creates an index for the first 10 characters of the my_column column.

Example 3: Using a Compatible Storage Engine

If you’re trying to use a FULLTEXT index on an InnoDB table in a version of MySQL prior to 5.6, you’ll need to switch to MyISAM or upgrade your MySQL version:


Or, if you’re using MySQL 5.6 or later:

ALTER TABLE my_table ADD FULLTEXT (my_column);

Example 4: Reviewing Index Creation Code

Ensure that your index creation code is correct. For instance, you cannot create a spatial index on a non-spatial data type:

-- Incorrect
CREATE SPATIAL INDEX idx_my_column ON my_table(my_column);

-- Correct for spatial data types
CREATE SPATIAL INDEX idx_my_column ON my_table(my_column);

Additional Tips

  • Consult Documentation: Always refer to the MySQL documentation for the specific version you’re using to understand the limitations and requirements of the storage engines.
  • Error Log Analysis: Check the MySQL error log for additional information that can provide more context about the error.
  • Database Optimization: Consider whether you need the index and how it will improve performance, as unnecessary indexes can have a negative impact.

By methodically checking the factors mentioned above, you should be able to diagnose and resolve MySQL Error 1167. If the issue persists after trying these solutions, it may be helpful to seek advice from the MySQL community forums or consult with a database professional for further assistance.

Leave a Comment